Legislature: Legislation Protecting Native Access To The Polls Passes House


In response to recent issues with access to the ballot during the pandemic and in recognition of historic voter suppression of Native American communities, HB 231 puts in place significant protections, guaranteeing access to the ballot box on native lands. 

Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Wonda Johnson (D-Rehoboth), Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo), Rep. Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland), and Sen. Benny Shendo (D-Jemez Pueblo), House Bill 231 specifies that polling places can be located on native lands during a time of emergency, such as a pandemic. It also allows tribes and pueblos to request additional polling locations up to 100 days before an election, requires at least one polling location within every Indian nation, tribe, and pueblo, and prohibits the state from closing or consolidating polling places on native lands without the express permission of the tribal government. 

“Our native communities fought hard for our right to be counted,” said Rep. Louis. “I am moving this legislation forward with my indigenous colleagues in the legislature to prevent additional barriers from being placed between our communities and the ballot box. HB 231 allows our communities to ensure that polling sites are in place, convenient, and open to our voters.”

Ensuring access to nearby physical voting locations in native communities is essential, as lack of mailing addresses makes mail-in voting difficult for many. HB 231 guarantees that these polling locations are in place and gives tribes the ability to request additional locations as needed. 

HB 231 passed the House with a unanimous 69-0 vote and will now be heard in the Senate. The legislation also contains an emergency clause, so that it will become effective quickly after signing and will be in place if an election is held before July 1st. 

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.